Why unions are beginning to stand against Obamacare


Over at The Washington Post’s website, Ed Rogers examines how union support for Obamacare has fallen off a steep cliff:

The fact is that the crater of Obamacare is getting deeper, with sharper edges. The unions are first-tier political allies of President Obama and the Democratic Party, and it was surely their last resort to put their grievances with Obamacare in writing in the public sphere. A lot must have happened behind the scenes before they felt sufficiently frustrated with the Obama administration to take this step.

The media has reported on the union attacks against Obamacare, but Rogers brings up an excellent point: typically, political allies stick together even if private disputes exist. In this case, expressing opposition to Obamacare in a public way gives – to cite one example – Tea Party Patriots ammunition for this blog post.

Why are the unions abandoning any pretense of a united front with their White House and congressional allies? From a letter signed by leaders of three prominent unions to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):

We have been strong supporters of the notion that all Americans should have access to quality, affordable health care. We have also been strong supporters of you.  In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision.

Now this vision has come back to haunt us.

The letter outlines three specific grievances:

First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.

Second, millions of Americans are covered by non-profit health insurance plans like the ones in which most of our members participate. These non-profit plans are governed jointly by unions and companies under the Taft-Hartley Act. Our health plans have been built over decades by working men and women. Under the ACA as interpreted by the Administration, our employees will treated differently and not be eligible for subsidies afforded other citizens. As such, many employees will be relegated to second-class status and shut out of the help the law offers to for-profit insurance plans.

And finally, even though non-profit plans like ours won’t receive the same subsidies as for-profit plans, they’ll be taxed to pay for those subsidies. Taken together, these restrictions will make non-profit plans like ours unsustainable, and will undermine the health-care market of viable alternatives to the big health insurance companies.

On behalf of the millions of working men and women we represent and the families they support, we can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.

Some of these concerns are, of course, self-centered. Unlike Tea Party Patriots, union leaders fight for dues-paying members, not the American people as a whole. However, four points made in the letter are those that have been made by Tea Party Patriots and activists nationwide:

1) Businesses will be cutting hours under Obamacare.
2) The health care law is a great boon to health insurance companies. American workers? Not so much.
3) Delaying the employer mandate shows some special interests get more attention than others.
4) The law is so expensive it requires raising taxes on millions of Americans. The unions focus on how it impacts their members; others include young people, who will be taxed via the individual mandate.

As the fight to repeal Obamacare in its entirety continues, we look towards finding common ground with other organizations. Obamacare is bad for unions and citizens alike, and party affiliation doesn’t change that fact. We’re pleased these unions are joining the majority of Americans in recognizing this.